How To Become A Game Developer


Making video games is a dream any avid gamer has had at one point in their lives. 

In fact, it’s not that hard to “create” a game. Any 10-year-old can download GameMaker, go through the tutorials, and develop a game. 

However, becoming a professional game developer, and making a Triple-A game, now that’s a different story. 

Making a game that people will actually pay money for requires skill, hard work, and more than a little luck.

But, what exactly is a game developer?

Game developers write, design, program, animate and test games for computers, gaming consoles, tablets, and mobile phones. 

Long periods of time, sometimes years, are spent in creating a single game. Even a game as simple as Bejeweled takes months to develop and steps through multiple development phases before it’s finally released to the public. 

Demand for new ideas, diverse workmates and strict deadlines… the list of constant challenges when you’re in the game development industry goes on! 

But if you have a passion for challenges, then you’ve chosen the right career path. 

In this article, we’ll be talking about:

  • What game developers do
  • What skills you need to become a game developer
  • The courses or books you need to study to become a game developer
  • The ins and outs of the game developing industry
  • A few tips on what you can do next

So turn your consoles on, and let’s hit start on your game developing career! 

Why You Should Become a Game Developer

Behind every successful computer or video game like Fortnite and Minecraft is a game developer who has pulled off countless all-nighters just to give you the best gaming experience possible. 

They don’t just “make” games. Game developers design, program, and test games, too.

There’s a lot on a game developer’s plate. From producing a game’s preliminary storyboard, deciding how the game should look and function, writing the code for the game, to spotting and correcting any errors in the game.

However, there are plenty of perks to working in the game development industry as well. 

One is job security.

There is always an available position for you since the demand for programmers is increasing every day. And if you ended up impressing your employers, then they’ll do whatever it takes to keep you. 

Developing games also provides you a space to learn different programming languages.

You can become a python and C++ developer at the same time, or you may also consider becoming a C# and JavaScript programmer. 

Point is, the longer you stay in the industry, the more fluent you become in different programming languages compared to other tech careers.  

Another reason why you should become a game developer is you can do what you love while earning an excellent paycheck. 

Video game programmers have, on average, the highest salaries of any job position in the game industry. In fact, the average annual pay for a game developer in the US is $105,126 a year!

Becoming a game developer, however, doesn’t happen overnight. 

You need to have knowledge of some or all of the following:

  • Different gaming and game platforms such as computers, gaming consoles, tablets, and mobile phones 
  • Game design
  • System design
  • Computer systems, processes, and languages
  • Various game engines like Unreal or Unity
  • 2D and 3D art and animation software
  • Graphic design
  • Psychology and behavior of different gamers
  • Game Theory

Others have already succeeded in this field, and if you’ve got the game, so can you. In the next section, I’ll show you the steps to get you started. 

Steps on Becoming A Game Developer

1: Play Games And Be One With The Community

The first step to mastering any kind of art is to become an adept student of that subject. The same goes for game development. 

And, if you want to develop the next great video game, play the greats that came before.

It’s not enough to mindlessly play them, though. Play the game and pay attention to the narrative structure of the game, how it’s put together. 

Take notes of what works, what doesn’t, and how you would improve them and solve the problems with the game. 

The more games you play, the more you can get to know what works and what doesn’t, and the more you can see what past developers have tried often and what they haven’t tried enough. 

This is a very useful well of knowledge to have access to. The games that have come before are your first guide on your journey to becoming a game developer.

Additionally, when you play more games, you’re more likely to be able to think as a player. 

This is important, of course, because that means your games will be more player-centric. After all, as a developer, it’s your job to make games that sell. And you can only do this is you make games people actually want to play, not games you think they want to play. 

Another tip? Don’t be afraid to ask questions online. 

Go to Reddit, or post questions on other online forums. 

Games that truly stand the test of time and enjoy universal critical acclaim are the games made by gamers for gamers. 

They’re games that are the product of community involvement and feedback. In other words, they’re the result of a thriving, player-driven community.

Thankfully, developers can now leverage the power of online communities to build better games, more effectively market their titles before and after launch and reach out to new talent. 

Enter the age of thriving online gaming communities and the many benefits they bring.

By becoming an active member of the video game community, you will gain a deeper understanding of what gamers, your future target audience, like and don’t like. What they enjoy and can’t stand.

Moreover, being active in the community will give you a more clear insight on how to become a game developer and also help you find your first gaming industry job. 

2: Education For Game Developers

Once you’ve played a lot of games, and you’re sure that game development is the path you want to take, you’ll need to start educating yourself. 

Now many would say that going to university would be the best step to take. However, this could be further from the truth. 

University will put you into massive debt and will teach skills you could have learned with 5 books and a number of online courses for $100 compared to a typical $100,000 degree in the U.S.

Also, Universities would rather not tell you that the piece of paper you get at the end is meaningless without a portfolio of games to back it up. 

It’s a sad fact that if you and a friend started your journey toward getting a game dev job today, and one went to uni and the other started reading books and doing online courses, by the time the first Uni student had finished their first year, the other friend would already have junior development job. 

And I know this to be true as I have a Game Design and Development Degree.

Don’t make the same mistake!

There are lots of books, online tutorials, and bootcamps out there that can teach you everything you need to know to create your first games to populate your portfolio games. 

Build Your Portfolio And Educate Yourself With These Books And Courses. 

You can start with this list of Amazon e-books on game development: 

Written by an enthusiast that became an expert in game development, this book is a good quick read for any aspiring game developer. 

The art of game development is a whirl-wind guide in ebook format, that will give you satellite’s eye view of the entire process of becoming a successful and specialized game developer, and even profit from your creations.

What’s Inside:

  • What to know before you get started as a Game Developer.
  • Tools you will need.
  • Training in: Game Design, Programming, Game Art, Game Music and more!
  • Releasing your game into the market.
  • Getting profits from your game.
  • Helpful tips and resources.

In Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, Jason Schreier takes readers on a fascinating odyssey behind the scenes of video game development.

Exploring the artistic challenges, technical impossibilities, marketplace demands, and Donkey Kong-sized monkey wrenches thrown into the works by corporate suits, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels reveals how bringing any game to completion is nothing short of miraculous. 

In this book, the broad range of technologies and techniques used by AAA game studios are each explained in detail, and their roles within a real industrial-strength game engine are illustrated

This third edition offers the same comprehensive coverage of game engine architecture provided by previous editions, along with updated coverage of:

  • Computer and CPU hardware and memory caches,
  • Compiler optimizations,
  • C++ language standardization,
  • The IEEE-754 floating-point representation,
  • 2D user interfaces,
  • Plus an entirely new chapter on hardware parallelism and concurrent programming

It’s written by Hardy LeBel, the creative guru behind mega-hit titles like Halo, FarCry and many more. 

He has 20 years of industry experience, and now he’s sharing tips, strategies, and insights that can help anyone break into the games business and thrive.

The Beginners Guide can help you decide if game development is the right career for you. It illustrates the basic skills you’ll need in a fun and simple way. It even has a handy guide for determining how ready you are to work in games.

Unity is the most popular game engine among Indie developers, start-ups, and medium to large independent game development companies.

This book is a complete package that covers environments, physics, sound, particles, and much more to get you up and running with Unity rapidly.

In this informal guide, you’ll get to grips with the basics of game development, starting off with using C# for scripting. You’ll also get the hang of Unity’s development environment and will be able to set up the required assets for your first 2D game. 

You’ll work on animating your player and getting it to move in the 2D environment. 

Next, you’ll see how to build the game in 3D, making use of Unity’s new 3D animation system. 

Here’s a list of the top 5 Udemy courses you can take to get you started on developing your first video game:

In this course, you’ll be learning how to make 2D games using the ever-expandable Unity game engine. The course covers:

  • Learning C#, a powerful modern language, from scratch. 
  • Becoming excellent at using the Unity game engine.
  • Building a solid foundation for game design and game development
  • Learn how object orientated programming works in practice and,
  • Create playable game projects that you can add to your portfolio

Developed by Epic Games, Unreal Engine 4 is a free-to-use game engine for game developers to design and build games, simulations, and visualizations. 

It can be quite tricky to use this complex beast especially when you’re a beginner, but this course breaks the whole process down so, by the end of the course, you’ll have a trick or two up your sleeve on how to use Unreal Engine 4 to create and modify video games. 

Not only will you learn C++ from scratch, but you’ll also have access to a course forum where you can discuss topics on a course-wide basis, or down to the individual video with other students as well. 

This course takes on a project-based approach, ensuring that you not only learn the basic programming concepts but get to apply them to real indie games as well. 

Included in this course are all the references and resources that you’ll need, including diagrams, quality screencasts, and “talking heads”. You’ll be covering topics from mastering C#, learning good coding and design patterns, making 2.5D and 3D games using Unity, to learning how to use source control. 

This course features a deep introduction and detailed process on how you can design and RPG combat system for your own game. 

And by the end of this course, you’ll have learned: 

  • Creating core combat mechanics for melee, ranged and special attacks.
  • More advanced C# techniques such as co-routines, delegates and interfaces. 
  • Develop pathfinding systems and patrol paths for NPCs and enemies. 
  • Balancing the player and enemy stats
  • Learn advanced game design, code architecture tactics, and project management
  • Have a hand at making a detailed level complete with terrain, triggers, enemies, lighting, and props. 

A complete beginner to Unreal Engine 4? 

Don’t worry, this course has you covered. 

Unreal Engine 4 gives you everything you need to start, ship, grow and stand out from the crowd, from enterprise applications and cinematic experiences to high-quality games across PC, console, mobile, VR and AR. 

Learn how the engine works and use it to your advantage when customizing your project, and arm yourself with the right tools and techniques on how to debug errors. 

By the end of this course, you’ll be designing and creating working projects with much more confidence. 

3: Build Your Portfolio

What’s life like in the video game industry?

Ask any game developer that question, and they’ll all give you the exact same answer: It’s hard. 

In an ideal world, once you’ve educated yourself, you’ll have your dream job served to you on a silver platter. 

But that’s not how the game industry works. 

Remember, to get a job at a studio, you need a strong portfolio.

The pros say you need to start with a small project. You can start with a small project that you can complete in a short period of time. Build a game, and once you’re done, develop some more. 

Keep on making games. Make the type of games that companies you’d like to join are making. 

Make other games. Just keep making games to fill that portfolio.

Once you have a strong portfolio start applying for jobs. And soon you’ll be part of the game industry. 

Conclusion

Fun fact: The highest-grossing video game of all time is World of Warcraft. The game has made over 10 billion dollars since its release.

That’s a lot of profit for a single game! But before Blizzard released it in 2004, it took roughly 4-5 years to develop the game, including extensive testing. 

That’s a testament to just how hard it is to develop a really good video game. 

For a true gamer, developing games for a living is truly a dream come true. You get paid good money to create and play games, what’s not to love?  

But the journey towards creating your very first video game is far from easy. You’ll encounter a lot of roadblocks, and you’ll need more than just a few cups of coffee or Red Bull to catch up with deadlines

First, you have to educate yourself. Then, you need to build a portfolio. And the portfolio is the most important part. Without one, you’ll get nowhere. 

What Next?

What is the difference between game design and development? 

Game designers are responsible for the overall creative vision of the game while programmers have the technological know-how to implement the game designers’ ideas and bring them to life using computer code. That’s only the surface of what these jobs cover within a company, however.

Why C++ Language Is More Preferred For Game Development?

There are numerous reasons for this. It’s simply the language that has been used for years. 

How much does a game developer earn on average?  

Developers usually earn $70,000 – $90,000 annually after 5 years in the industry. 

Nick Sinclair

Having played games since the golden age of the Commodore 64, Nick finally took the plunge and studied Creative Game Design in university. After 3 years of "Study", Nick co-founded a games company where he soon discovered his true calling: writing about games. 11 years later Nick writes about a tower of topics, but gaming is always stacked neatly at the top.

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